Ask Markwardt to tell you her memories from the meet, and the first thing she mentions is how perfect the entire day was supposed to be. She was to run the biggest race of her life in the morning. As soon as it finished, she was to drive with her dad from Columbus to Warren, where she would be the maid of honor in her big sister Anna’s wedding that night.
At the 1- and 2-mile markers, Markwardt was on a personal-best pace. Then, as she entered the stadium at Columbus’ Scioto Downs, with about 400 meters to go, she heard her left leg crack.
The leg had been sore on and off for the previous two weeks, prompting Berkshire coach Julie Cole to limit Markwardt in practice. When she heard the crack, Markwardt thought it was a muscle pull or tear. She thought she could gut it out to the finish line.
“There was a runner from one of our rival schools right in front of me,” she said. “I kept staring at the back of her jersey and pushing myself to catch her.”
But some 200 meters later, Markwardt heard the leg crack again. And again. Then there was a louder crack, and her entire leg gave out. She fell to the ground as onlookers winced at the sound and the sight of what happened.
One of Markwardt’s teammates, unaware of what had happened, encouraged her to get up. She tried, using her right leg. But as soon as she shifted weight to the left, the loudest crack yet came. And her leg gave out again.
“At that point, I knew what had happened. I knew my leg was broken pretty badly. And I knew I couldn’t get up again. So I started crawling,” she said.
She said she thought not of her coach, nor her parents, nor anyone else who had encouraged her to never give up, to see things to the finish. Instead, she thought of the countless stories she had heard about runners who collapsed before a race’s end and somehow found the courage to cross that last line. Even if her leg had given out at the 400-meter mark, she said, it wouldn’t have mattered. She was going to finish.
“They may not have let me, and it might not have been pretty, but I would have tried,” she said.